Can Maradona maximize Messi impact?

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Can Maradona maximize Messi impact?
Posted by Jason De Vos

When the best player in the world sets foot on South African soil at the World Cup this summer, it is logical to assume that his team will be one of the favourites.

Isn’t it?

In the Champions League quarter-final second leg match between Barcelona and Arsenal last week, Barcelona’s Argentine star Lionel Messi single-handedly destroyed the English club.

His four sublime goals led his team to a 4-1 victory and served to underline his dominance as the world’s best player.

Yet despite Messi’s brilliant form for his club team, we have rarely seen him reach his full potential when pulling on the blue and white jersey of his homeland. It begs the question: how can a player perform heroics for his club team, while at the same time fail to shine for his country?

The answer, in my opinion, is twofold.

Club form vs. country form

First, there is a level of comfort that all players achieve when playing for their club side. Training with those teammates day in, day out, week in, week out for years at a time breeds familiarity.

An understanding is developed whereby players go out on the field not as individuals, but rather as a unit. This familiarity is difficult – if not impossible – to re-create at the national team level. There is simply not enough time spent training together prior to competition for that familiarity to grow.

Second, one has to question the tactical approach being taken by the national team coach. In the case of Argentina, while Diego Maradona was arguably the world’s best -ever player, he has yet to demonstrate a similar ability at the managerial level.

While nothing can be done to increase the amount of time that national team players spend together prior to competing, the tactical preparation that they are given before a competition is an area where improvements can always be made, especially in the case of Argentina.

To call Maradona an indecisive manager would be a monumental understatement. He has, over the course of Argentina’s World Cup qualifying campaign, selected over 50 different players to represent his country. He has fallen out with integral players such as Juan Roman Riquelme, and has shown an inability to control his emotions and make clinical decisions that are in the best interest of his team.

Perhaps most importantly, Maradona has failed to be consistent in his choice of tactical formation. He has at various times during Argentina’s qualifying campaign played with three defenders; at other times he has employed a system that utilized four defenders. He has switched formations between a 3-5-2, a 4-4-2 and a 4-3-1-2, and generally shown very little consistency in his tactical approach to the game.

What this does is destabilize his team, to the point where players like Messi are unsure of what their role in the team will be from one game to the next.

Maradona would be better served by choosing a formation that is suitable to the players he has at his disposal and then sticking with it. Argentina has a pool of players that is as good as any country in the world; choosing a formation to suit their strengths shouldn’t be a difficult thing to do.

Following Barca’s example

Given that Messi is playing the best football of his life at just the right time (just prior to the World Cup), I would suggest that Maradona take a leaf out of Barcelona’s book and employ a similar system to the Spanish club.

Choosing to play a 4-3-3 system like Barcelona would allow Lionel Messi to occupy the same role for his country as he does for his club. Playing on the right wing would allow Messi to pick up the ball in wide areas and run at defenders, a skill that he has used to maximum effect for Barcelona.

Some might say that Barcelona focus most of their attacking play through Messi, and that Argentina should look to do the same. I think that argument does a disservice to Messi’s teammates at both Barcelona and Argentina.

Neither is a one-man team, and neither should be. In Barcelona, Messi has the luxury of playing alongside great players like Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, Carlos Puyol, Gerard Pique and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. For his national team, Messi is in the company of Carlos Tevez, Javier Mascherano, Sergio Aguero, Fernando Gago and Gonzalo Higuain.

A front three of Tevez, Higuain and Messi will be as dangerous an attacking force as anything put forth by the competition in South Africa. Mascherano will anchor the midfield, with Gago and Esteban Cambiasso also capable contributors in the middle of the park.

Playing with a back four will allow Argentina to be more solid defensively, which is where I believe they are their most vulnerable.

Maradona has to decide on a formation and be consistent with its application so that his players can develop cohesion prior to the World Cup. If he can do that, then Messi has every chance of fulfilling his reputation as the world’s best player.

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8 Responses to Can Maradona maximize Messi impact?

  1. River Fan says:

    this guy needs to realize that messi does not play on the right wing any more. he played in el clasico as the main striker, and in the CL he played as a classic 10 behind Bojan and Pedro. THe most important thing is that Maradona surrounds Messi with attacking help, and gives him a free role behind the strikers Higuain and Tevez (are better IMO than ibra/bojan and pedro) and with some one like Veron to play the role of Xavi. Although Veron is not the player Xavi is, the Estudiantes captain has a football IQ and he has an understanding with Messi I think can develope. THen, on the left, Di Maria is an outlet for Messi, and also a very dangerous player.
    —————-Mascherano
    ———-Veron/Pastore—–Di Maria
    ——————-Messi
    ———–Tevez———–Higuain

  2. pintadoazulblanco says:

    Argentina is doomed for failure in the World Cup if Veron is given the responsibility of leading the team’s attack.

    Veron is too old, slow and physically unfit to handle playing an entire world cup game, let alone an entire world cup.

    What is the strength of Veron’s passing skills?

    Sending in long balls, to the sides and down the field.

    Veron is not a player that will be able to link up effectively with Messi.

    Messi needs quality balls delivered to him not balls in the air forcing him to jump up to make contact with the ball. Messi needs players that can accompany him in the play build up, that can exchange passes with him.

    Veron is not that player.

  3. pintadoazulblanco says:

    In order for Messi & Argentina to succeed in the world cup Argentina will need to have attacking fullbacks and midfielders that can deliver quality balls to Messi and participate in the play buildup.

    The answer on the right side of the midfield is not a defensive player like Jonas Gutierrez. For that spot, what is needed is a midfielder with good passing skills, that can attack, and help with the play buildup.

    I think Aimar or Zanetti would do well in that spot.

    As far as having a playmaker in the lineup, Argentina could go with Pastore, a gamble because of his lack of international experience, but it may be a gamble worth taking. Pastore is the only true enganche out of all the players that will most likely make the WC squad.

    Or Argentina could go without a playmaker and instead have in the midfield a player like Cambiasso or Banega that can help with the play buildup and provide additional defensive support in the middle.

  4. pintadoazulblanco says:

    The lineup that I would like to see in the WC is:

    Romero

    Zabaleta-Demichelis-Samuel-Insua

    Aimar-Mascherano-Banega-DiMaria

    Messi-Higuain

    In this lineup, Zanetti can replace Aimar if necessary and Cambiasso can replace Banega if necessary. The team would still remain offensively & defensively strong.

    Also, this lineup can be changed to a 4-3-1-2 in the middle of a game by having Pastore replace Aimar.

  5. Chris says:

    What about Milito instead of Demi???
    last few games I’ve seen with Milito, he’s been giving his all, and has been doing extremely well, considering being laid off for almost 2yrs…
    the only thing i think Milito lacks in at the moment, is speed..

    watching the alst 2 Bayern M. Matches, Demi doesnt look the same, he’s been lacking in defence… at least in my opinion…
    I wouldn’t mind seing Milito and Samuel together if Milito continues to improve… im proud of the guy.

  6. pintadoazulblanco says:

    Yes, definitely.

    It remains to be seen if Demichelis regains his form.

    I’m pulling for Milito and he is making a case for a place in the WC squad.

    I hope he finishes out the season strong.

    But, unfortunately, like with other players, his WC fate is in the hands of Maradona.

  7. Chris says:

    So Ron….

    I read this Morning that Diego has contacted Maxi Lopez … What are ur thoughts on that ???

    I feel he’s been in great form since gremio, even better in Catania, but I’ve always felt that Maxi is not NT quality..

    He stated that Diego told him he’s looking for another Striker…

    this guy kills me !!!!!!

  8. pintadoazulblanco says:

    My feeling all along has been that he is not good enough to play on the national team.

    But he has not had a real opportunity to play in Europe until now.

    Maxi is starting to score goals in Italy.

    I think we should keep an eye on him.

    If he continues to play well in Italy, then who knows.

    Goal scorers cannot be ignored.

    It’ll be interesting to see how he continues to develop in Europe.

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